Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Core Response #4: Digital Haptics and Obsolescence

Tara's essay for this week, written during the relative infancy of commercial Internet access, stimulated my interest in media and haptics and how computing in particular is able to harness a unique sense of immediacy to appeal to users looking for an "imagined space of possibility and change." [1] The third section of the essay in particular led me to wonder wonder which other manifestations of capital gatekeeping have arisen to stratify the digital wilderness in the thirteen years between the authoring of the essay and today. As I began to write this post from my seven-year-old Lenovo, which has been drifting to and from death's door for the better part of a month now, one of these manifestations became clear to me: the finance-driven world of personal computer technology and how the Internet experience differs for those who have varying degrees of access to it.

The United States Census Bureau reported that in 2013, 83.8 of respondent households owned a computer, and 74.4 of households had Internet access. [2] This one sentence should illustrate a rather alarming gap in and of itself - the Internet is essentially a utility at this point, and one in five American households don't have it. These statistics become even more shocking when income and race are taken into account: less than half of respondent households with an income of $25,000/year have Internet access, and approximately 60% of black and Hispanic households have Internet access. Those fortunate enough to afford these services must also consider Moore's Law, which states (here generalized) that computing capacities double every 18 months from what they were previously capable of, typically accompanied by an increase in price and an eventual need to upgrade as well. What becomes off-limits to households using outdated computers or slow Internet? Any site with advertisements becomes a nightmare to approach: users who don't use adblocking technologies find themselves bombarded with streaming video extolling bleach, and users who do quickly discover that the program hogs their already precious computing resources anyway. [3] The promise of volitional mobility is severely compromised when the "sense of directed movement through space" [4] is weighed down by cursor lag, screen freezes, memory leaks, and a wide array of other problems that an obsolete computer must contend with. Tech has become more and more intertwined with finance, a paradigm that we must remain constantly aware of if we intend to continue championing the Internet as a space for informational acquisition and personal transformation.

Works Cited

[1] McPherson, Tara. "Reload: Liveness, Mobility, and the Web." 
[2] United States Census Bureau. "Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013" <http://www.census.gov/history/pdf/2013computeruse.pdf>
[3] Anthony, Sebastian. "Iframe irony: Adblock Plus is probably the reason Firefox and Chrome are such memory hogs." <http://www.extremetech.com/computing/182428-ironic-iframes-adblock-plus-is-probably-the-reason-firefox-and-chrome-are-such-memory-hogs>
[4] See [1]

1 comment:

  1. I agree. The magic of cell phones and internet is definitely lessened by the problems of keeping those expensive machines running and up to date. Also the cost of disposing of them once they become obsolescent. And that doesn't even take into account the census information above about the large percentage of the population who doesn't have access to internet. The democracy of the digital age may have been overstated.